“All The Gold In California”

“All The Gold In California”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Larry Gatlin
“All The Gold In California”

Written by Larry Gatlin
Recorded by Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers

My old friend Fred Foster at Monument Records in Nashville, a small independent record company, was the first one to give me a record deal. Kris Kristofferson and Dottie West introduced me to him. He discovered Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, and Kris. Fred also became my producer and we had some hits — “Broken Lady,” “I Don’t Wanna Cry” and “Night Time Magic” were all #1 records. But we all knew that independent distributors weren’t paying. I asked him if he would allow me to try to find a deal with a major label to get the Gatlin Brothers in the big time record business. He knew that I wouldn’t throw him under the bus, and he very graciously gave me his permission.

So I went to California. I had a meeting with Jim Mazza at United Artists. My next meeting was with Mo Austin, an iconic figure at Warner Bros. On my way there, I was stuck in a terrible traffic jam — I remember I was coming from Sunset Boulevard on Highland Avenue and literally put my car in Park by the time I reached the Hollywood Bowl. It was 1979.

In front of me, as I nervously waited for the cars to move so I wouldn’t be late for my next meeting, was a 1958 Mercury station wagon with Oklahoma license plates. It was filled with pots and pans, chairs, luggage, skinny kids hanging out of the windows. It looked like the Beverly Hillbillies meets the Joads from The Grapes of Wrath. All I could think was “Poor Okies!” Now don’t take that the wrong way — my grandma was born on a reservation in Oklahoma — Okies are good people, hard workers and I am not saying it disparagingly at all, I say it with affection.

All I could think was that these people think they will come to California, be rich, become movie stars in the golden land of California and they’ll find out very soon that “All the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else’s name.” I reached up on the visor and got the Hertz rental car receipt folder, grabbed a pen out of the saddle bag that I carried with me all the time back then, and wrote those two lines.

The light changed, I drove to my meeting in Burbank at Warner Bros. Mo was a gentleman, we visited for about an hour and I went back to my car in the parking lot of Warner Bros. and, in 8 minutes, wrote the song on that Hertz receipt and other scraps of paper I was able to find. It’s kind of like “New York, New York” — “if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…” New York and California are for survivors.

The next morning I got in the airplane and flew to Houston where The Gatlin Brothers had a big concert with some folks you may have heard of — Willie Nelson and Charlie Daniels — at the Summit, a big concert venue then that is now the Joel Osteen church. I sang “All the Gold…” backstage to the Brothers and our guitar player, Steve Smith, and they all said, “That’s the one!”

We went back to Nashville and signed with Bruce Lundvall at CBS Records. We recorded the song and six months later it was the #1 country song in the world. Is this a great country, or what?

P.S. We’ve sung that song all over the world, at the Grand Ole Opry, on The Tonight Show, at Carnegie Hall, but nothing is more important than singing it at school for Campbell Dale Spencer, my 3-year-old granddaughter, and her friends. And this morning my 8-year-old granddaughter showed me that she was a songwriting prodigy when we wrote, “Be careful what you pray for, your prayers just might come true.” Ain’t God good?!

“All The Gold In California”

All the gold in California

Is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else’s name

So if you’re dreaming about California

It don’t matter at all where you played before, California’s a brand new game

Trying to be a hero, winding up a zero

Can scar a man forever, right down to your soul

Living on the spot light, can kill a man out right

Cause everything that glitters is not gold

And all the gold in California

Is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else’s name

So if you’re dreaming about California

It don’t matter at all where you played before, California’s a brand new game

And all the gold in California

Is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else’s name

So if you’re dreaming about California

It don’t matter at all where you played before, California’s a brand new game

Words and Music by Larry Gatlin. © 1979, 1980 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Parker Lou Music LLC and Songs Of Universal, Inc. All Rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC and Parker Lou Music LLC Administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.

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